Culinard Students in Mobile AL Volunteer at Farm-to-Table Dinner

Oct 10, 2012

Imagine this:

A group of people gather for a meal of fresh shrimp, savory goat cheese, crisp salad and fresh vegetables. The table's bounty is in–season and locally sourced.

It's not difficult to conjure such a mouth–watering image, but this kind of event is rarer than you might think since much of the food Americans eat is grown out of traditional seasons and transported thousands of miles.

Across the country, however, the "farm–to–table" movement is advocating another approach that encourages consumers to eat food that is raised, caught or harvested within close proximity. Advocates say this approach is healthier and supports the local economy.

In Mobile, Alabama, an avid group of gardeners have taken the lead in creating awareness about this movement in the Gulf Coast region.

Recently the Mobile County Master Gardeners, in conjunction with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, held a Farm–to–Table Dinner featuring food from the region. Over 120 diners enjoyed a four–course dinner including starters such as Fried Goat Cheese with Fig Preserves and Pickled Vegetable Salad with Micro Greens and Hydroponic Bibb Lettuce.

Chef Jason Lafferty, an instructor and program director at Culinard, the Culinary Institute of Virginia College in Mobile, was in charge of the menu. While attendees enjoyed live music, non–alcoholic specialty drinks and a silent auction, Chef Lafferty and a staff of a dozen Culinard students plated delicious servings of Beef with a Truffle Cream Sauce, Sautéed Local Vegetables, Roasted Inside Round with a Wild Mushroom Demi–Glace and Bacon Wrapped BBQ Shrimp.

"The help from these students really made the difference," Chef Lafferty said. "Specialty, high–end events are difficult to pull off, but they are really putting their culinary school training to good use. This is just one of a number of volunteer opportunities they get at Culinard in Mobile that gives them excellent real–world experience."

Ticket proceeds from the Farm–to–Table Dinner will be used to keep the Master Gardener's demonstration gardens productive, as its crops are donated to Haven of Hope, a Mobile ministry serving women who are overcoming substance abuse.

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